Shocking Discoveries of Columbus Day

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Columbus Day 2006. Western New York was hit hard with a historic storm, the likes of which had not been seen in 100 years. Trees, still in full leaf, the heavy falling snow, and by morning, they were bent, broken and had downed utility lines affecting more than 380,000 homes. The power was out for days and people had to live as in days gone by. During that time, my family made some shocking discoveries.

1. We need food, clothing and shelter, but we really like heat and running water. Gathered around the wood burning stove (thank God I let my husband play Paul Bunyun in our wooded lot), the family played games and wishfully awaited for the power to come on. It was a long wait – five days to be exact.

2. There is a reason for some rhymes, especially, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Being on well water, the pump needs juice and no running water was a bit hard to stomach for us 21st Century dwellers. I found out that urine is sterile and has even been used to clean wounds when water is not available. (Gives new meaning to flushing a wound.) None the less, the sound of a working toilet is now music to our ears.

3. We like each other. Who knew? There were board games by candlelight, storytelling, preparation meals, and talking to each other – a real novelty. Nobody blew a fuse, I heard less negativity and this imposed family time made better connections all around.

4. We need each other. We ditched the TV show “Survivor” mentality where it’s every man for himself. Survival mode brought out the best in us. Camp cooking on the grill was no vacation but we were lucky to have that. The stockpile of food I keep in the basement “fallout shelter” that I get teased about served duel purposes: to feed us and as a convenient reminder that once again, I was right. After four days, our relatives finally got power so we could go and clean up. That is why we are always nice to relatives – we need them!

5. There is life without the Internet! There was no My Space – we had our space, and it was pretty cozy with seven of us around the wood burning stove. I have to admit the adults found no Internet as difficult as the kids. But, they could not Google anything we said for to check for accuracy which had its advantages. (See number 6 below.)

6. We do not like whine. A mini battery operated radio was our only link to the rest of the world. Most people were great and recognized that the government can not outlaw accidents, acts of nature, time passage, aging and gravity, but … I told my kids about results of a study that I had read just before the power went out that showed in 99% of cases of whine, sitting on the butt increased hindsight, drastically.

One day the kids will reminisce about this historic October storm and say, “Remember the time we melted snow to flush toilets?” and “How about when Mom ran out of chocolate and melted baking chocolate on the woodstove?” Egypt “I went five days without a shower” and the rest of us will answer, “WE REMEMBER!” While we’re not exactly looking to repeat it, the family got a charge out of being powerless.

The electricity can stay on – please – but let the power of our Columbus Day discoveries keep on going … and going … And make sure to stock up on plenty of C and D batteries.

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